Between Cimarosa and Verdi, three great Italian composers flourished. Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. The last, in the history of opera, and in the international repertory, is remembered for his perennially popular “Lucia di Lammermoor” and for his trio of gay masterpieces, “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “La Fille du Régiment” and “Don Pasquale.” Of the seventy operas he composed, this handful survives to guarantee Donizetti’s musical immortality. Gaetano Donizetti was born in Bergamo on November 29, 1797. At nine he was admitted to the local conservatory where he studied under Simone Mayr, a Bavarian composer of considerable reputation in his day. In 1815 he went to Bologna to continue his studies at the Liceo Musicale under Padre Mattei, who had been the teacher of Rossini. From the start of his career Donizetti wrote with a fantastic speed and facility. The story goes that, when Donizetti was told that Rossini had composed “The Barber of Seville” in thirteen days, he retorted: “Why not, he’s so lazy”. Another variation on the theme is the story of Bellini who asked an impresario four times as much money for an opera as Donizetti had been paid. When the impresario protested, Bellini explained: “You see, I write only one quarter as many operas in a year.” However, Donizetti’s labors eventually left him exhausted in brain and body and, when he died at fifty on April 8, 1848, his mind had give way. “Don Pasquale” was composed at the end of his life. The libretto is by the composer and Giovanni Ruffini, and is based on a libretto written earlier for Stefano Pavesi’s opera, “Ser Marc’ Antonio.” Its first performance took place at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, January 3, 1843, and its brilliant gaiety charmed all who heard it. The cast was historic: Luigi Lablache, the most famous bass of his generation, sang the title role; Giulia Grisi was Norina; the great tenor Mario brought cheers from the fashionable audience with his serenade “Com’ è gentil”; and the renowned baritone Antonio Tamburini was Dr. Malatesta. The first performance in New York took place at the park Theatre, March 9, 1846, in English. For many years after its premiere, “Don Pasquale” was played as a contemporary piece. But as time went by it was realized that the opera buffa did not lend itself to the atmosphere of every-day life. For the sake of musical style and of picturesqueness in costume and staging, the period was put back to the eighteenth century where it has remained ever since.